the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
Yes indeed folks, Our longtime captain is making a return to the great state of MICHIGAN to watch our beloved Wolverines beat down lil brother. Maybe Novak being there can help MICH to once again win at the Breslin center?
watched the stream versus Towson
Burke is VERY good. Looks to be a true point guard who can also drive or knock down the 3.
He may not be Morris, posting up smaller guards, but he should make the offensive flow much more consistent.......and that could be better than the way Morris ran the offense.
Horford at 250 is a different player, and Smotrycz is carrying his new bulk well, too. And Hardaway is pretty clearly an NBA player to be.
This year's hoops should be serious, and with the crop coming in next year......
Remember when Beilein got here and said he wasnt even used to recruting top 150 guys?
Curious situation with Cronin. If anyone knows the exact nature/diagnosis of his hip injury I’d love to hear it since coverage has been short on specifics.
Cronin didn’t just display a noticeable limp v. Norfolk, he outright dragged one leg behind him anytime he was required to take it up above a trot. Still, he played decent minutes. Two conclusions, 1) something is def wrong (duh) 2) whatever the injury is, the coaches/trainers view it as more of a pain management issue at this point without significant risk of further injury.
I’m not the world’s foremost expert on redshirts. JB’s quote was something to the effect of, “If we redshirt him, we can always burn it latter.” So it appears the “redshirt” v “non-redshirt” discussion boils down to a decision over whether to save Cronin for an absolute emergency, or play him against the rest of the tomato can non-con so that he stands a higher chance of functionality if called on in Big 10 play.
Little to nothing can be gleaned regarding Cronin’s short term or long term potential from his play thus far. But if it is true that JB’s plan was to play one of Beinzig (sp) or Cronin this season, and slim left town, the decision is already made in my mind despite the injury.
The team’s success has put it in a position where missing the tourney this year would be a blow. JB should pull out all the stops. In a season where the prevailing theme has been this team’s ability to accomplish lots of little things which add up to victory, in my estimation one of the most incredible of those small feats has been the ability of M (esp its ‘big’ people) to avoid costly foul trouble. I think it’s a trend that will continue and really help to negate our size disadvantage.
But there are going to be nights in the big 10 where 2, if not all three, of the Sims/Shepard/Gibson trio are forced to play limited minutes due to foul trouble. Whatever else he can or can’t do, Cronin is undeniably 7 feet. He can stick his arms up to contest shots and grab rebounds which Wright cannot. Against Norfolk he didn’t look good getting up and down the floor, but his mobility in the ½ court didn’t appear all that limited by the injury. His conditioning, however, was terrible.
So lets see what he’s got. Let him break a sweat as part of the rotation in upcoming non-con games, and play lots of junk time. Help the conditioning and aid in his comfort on the floor handling the ball and making defensive rotations against live competition. Its not a stretch to say that Cronin’s ability to steal some minutes in 3, 4, or 5 big 10 games would be the determining factor in the outcome of at least one of those games. And in a hotly contested conference where M will likely need to go .500 to make it in, every game is huge.
Anyone out there catch this game and have any thoughts? I saw a couple times the game was supposed to be on BTN, but it wasn’t in Chicago at least.
After killing over an hour on a rosy, boarding on gushing, diary entry regarding this year’s hoops squad and their chances at the tourney (wherein I boldly proclaimed M would win every game it ‘should’ win, save perhaps a single slip-up) I was not pleased to see M 66 Savannah St 64 (OT) in print.
After reading some of the game recaps, my first thought was “hey, maybe this is GOOD sign for the team.” My second thought was “holy shit, have I become that much of a homer? Dear God.”
Back to the first thought. M got down by 20 at the half, playing in the mortuary that is Chrysler whenever the students leave town. I liked JB’s halftime approach, lightening things up as opposed to fire and brimstone. They make an immediate second half run behind a barrage of Manny FTs then get some timely Novak triples. Sims goes 9-12 from the floor (with JB intimating in his post game comments that many came inside) and hits the game winner. Basically they got their shit together and showed some mettle in a game they almost certainly would have lost last year. And if it’s a game they would have lost last year but didn’t, by definition that is a positive, right?
Anyone who saw the game disagree with that? M had a typical ‘07 dusty dry spell in the first, going 8 minutes without a basket, while reverting to the ‘07 TO fest with 12 and allowing the SS to shoot 15 of 21.
Was M taking bad shots or where they just not falling? At what point did Sims get involved in the game or was he fairly consistent throughout?
Improved ball handling was one of my favorite aspects of ‘08 so far, not just cutting down on TO’s, but confidence in handling the ball. What happened with the first half? Careless? Pressing? Succumbing to the opponent’s pressure?
How did Savannah St shoot the ball so well? Was it a matter of failing to close out on shooters out of the 1-3-1? Offensive glass? Points off TOs? Bad luck?
Was Manny forcing a lot of fouls or was he getting the benefit of the doubt on close calls (14-14 on the night, gotta love that no matter what)?
Finally, please, someone, describe Novak’s blown dunk.
Couldn’t figure out if this was a diary or forum post. My line of demarcation has always been newsy items and specific/tangible observations for the forum, and long-view/personal/philosophical type items for diary. This is mostly specific observations but still felt more diary, so away we go...
When John Beilein took over, I would say that he stressed three things in no particular order: 1) shooting 2) conditioning 3) installing his offensive system. I believe he introduced his 1-3-1 defense but I do not think it became a point of emphasis for some time since they didn’t run it with any frequency last season (to my recollection) until ½ way into the big 10 season. Which makes sense because when the players’ heads are swimming with the offense, you’re at cross purposes trying to install an equally complex defense.
You can teach shooting and practice shooting but in the end, some guys are good shooters and some are never going to be better than o.k. Last night’s broadcast noted that M was prob the worst perimeter shooting team in the Big 10 last season. That’s like RR’s offense with Sheridan at the helm, almost impossible to be competitive offensively in many games if that 3 isn’t falling. The Wolves won’t be a good shooting team this year, but they aren’t going to be the worst shooting team in the Big 10 either.
JB got a couple of shooters in his freshman class that will have their ups and downs this year, but who a) seem to recognize good shots in this offense and will take them when there b) will prob shoot around 35% on the season from deep (respectable in a volume shooting system IMO) (c) are capable of getting hot and notching some 3/4 or 4/6 nights with some daggers, performances that are often the difference in tight conference games. Sims won’t be taking many threes after after hoisting around 150 and hitting less than 30% last season. Manny’s percentage may rise slightly on fewer attempts, and Grady’s looks like it will raise appreciably on about the same attempts. The one guy who could be a liability in this equation compared with last season is Wright, whose streaky shooting as a role player last season was tolerable, but who needs more consistency playing as a starter whose primary offensive weapon is the 3. He’ll be shooting around 5 a night and he has to hit better than 30% clip he’s at now.
How M shoots the 3, esp on the road in the Big 10, is prob going to be the diff between M as a bubble team or a 4th or 5th place finish in the Big 10, and tourney spot. If they can manage to be pretty good, I think they’re in.
On to the good news. Nothing has jumped out at me this year more than the team conditioning. Some of this observation is prob attributable to the fact that these guys are physically a year more mature, and they’re much more confident in every area which makes it possible to play faster. But I am impressed. Take Sims for example. A high flyer by no means, he took that Wright back door against UCLA after playing a lot of minutes in the second half and crammed the ball quickly without a dribble. That does not happen last year. He’s finishing with a lot more dunks this year and getting to oops he wouldn’t have last year. He’s also getting his hands on more rebounds.
As a team there is perpetual motion on offense. Guards are pushing the ball and people are running with them even when they don’t have numbers. As pointed out last night, transition defense has been exceptional. Then there is the 1-3-1 which requires quick close outs on shooters and close downs on post entries. M is executing all the way through the shot clock and all the way through the game. There have been breakdowns but almost exclusively due to good offensive movement and not a lack of rotations. They’re getting more steals and contesting more shots.
Rebounding. M is going to lose the rebounding battle this year, esp in the Big 10. Our center rotation is 6'10 (Gibson) 6'7 (Sims), and PF rotation goes 6'5 (Wright) 6'5 (Shep). JB expects to lose the rebounding battle and will try to compensate stylistically. But here’s the thing. I said above that 3 pt shooting will determine bubble or tourney, as where prior to the season I would have said 3 pt shooting will be the margin between bubble and NIT seeding, because M is going to get smoked on the Big 10 ball boards. I still think M will have a decided disadvantage, so where is the diff? It’s the way M is competing for rebounds, which goes back to conditioning. Along with having Manny at the 3.
As was (again) pointed out last night, having Manny at the 3 as opposed to the point puts him in position to hit the defensive glass where he is an above average rebounder for his position, and where he can even out-battle PFs and Cs from time to time. When a ball comes off the rim, Gibson and Sims are often surrounded by larger players and without a body on anyone thanks to the 1-3-1. Yet they are able to get up and battle, and both have shown marked improvement on their second jump. That second jump gives them a shot at the board or at least keeping the ball alive, and by that time our guards are getting down into the paint and fighting to dig balls out. Point is, M will still be on the wrong end of a lot of raw rebounding numbers, but in late game situations where an opponent is battling to grab the lead or visa versa, I feel good that our rebounding will hold up well enough to generate the possessions we need and/or keep them from imposing their will on the offensive glass for killer junk hoops and multiple shot possesions.
As far as installing the offense, I don’t know enough about how JB’s offense is supposed to look when fully operational other than that 3s rain down like fire. Or rain. I guess rain rains down far more frequently than fire, so you could say that the 3s rained down like fire last year.
But I do know this, the players clearly aren’t over-thinking out there any more. The perimeter passes are more decisive and with a purpose. They can actually look for open back door passes. The ball handling is a hell of a lot stronger, esp among the trio of Merritt, Lee and Grady. The players seem to have a better feel for what’s a good shot. What Kendall Gill may perceive as a bad shot may be a fine shot in JB’s system that just didn’t fall. Missing a shot is one thing, but if you miss a shot and in the back or your head are also wondering if it was a good shot or a bad one, that messes with your next one.
So, back to the prediction of M falling somewhere between bubble team, and solily in as the Big 10's 4th or 5th finisher. What is this based on, besides the above? Schedule. I believe M has shown enough this year to prove that they’ll beat the teams they should, with an exception of one or two, they’ll at least split in even-up games, and that they’ll steal one or two that they shouldn’t.
Last year they went 10-22 with Ls to West Kentuck, Haaaavad, Central, Minni twice, NU, and PSU. If M goes 6-1 in those games, you’re at 16-16. In 15 games against Butler, GU, BC, Duke, UCLA, Wisky, MSU, IU, Purdue and OSU, games in which UM was the decisive dog to one degree or another, they went 1-14. In more or less “toss up” games vs. IL and Iowa, they split. This year you move IU into the should win column and OSU into the toss-ups, providing another 2-3 wins and pushing the record up to say 19 Ws, bubble territory with a win over then #4 UCLA already on the resume. This year sub Duke #1 for Butler, Maryland for BC, Conn for GU, and keep Duke #2 for Duke. Keep the MSU, Purdue and Wiskey. Out of those 10 games in which M should be the decided dog, can they pull out 2? 3? If yea, in. If na, out.
How’s that for analysis? They need to shoot “pretty good.” Moving on.
1. Where and how will LLP fit in? M has a nice rotation going at the moment, and LLP
hasn’t played a game in over a year, plus this is his first year in JB’s systems (though he did get practice burn last year). Best case scenario is that he basically swallows Merritt and C.J. Lee’s combined minutes and provides they type of upgrade his talent and guru rankings suggest. Worst case is that he swallows Merritt and Lee’s minutes and presses too hard on offense (too many missed shots and TOs) , and doesn’t have the quicks to operate as the baseline defender in the 1-3-1, meaning he can only play with Grady on the floor.
2. What’s going to happen with Sims’ offense? I’ve watched about 3.5 games this season,
and seen approx 2 post entry passes to Sims. I think JB needs to make a concerted effort to call some plays for him on box, at least 2-3 per half. This is for a variety of reasons.
First, I think he’ll be relatively effective with those touches. As previously noted, he seems to have more lift this season. His first 2 years when he got entry passes in post position, he often got stuffed or had his shot altered because he’s a short PF and not a great leaper. This year I think he’s stronger/quicker too and will get more clean looks. Second, when he’s not involved in the offense, he takes a couple (at least) ill advised shots a half where the ball gets in his hands and he gives in an “Eff it, I haven’t shot in awhile, here goes.” Those almost never go in. Third, he also is getting a couple of open looks from 12-15 per half which he absolutely should shoot, and will hit more of if he’s had the ball in his hands more..
Finally, future recruiting. During JB’s tenure there are going to many good-to-great big men in the state of MI. They will all have a solid interest in M. Almost none of them will be high-post shooter/distributors. God bless the Pittsnoggles of the world, but if you’re looking to do serious damage, it’s a lot easier with a couple of 6'9-6'11 (ahem) “athletic” (wink, nod) bigs who can erase some of those rebounding problems and who can prevent teams like Duke from having their way with you in the paint. The price for reeling in many of those guys will be making a credible offer of post touches. Which, incidently, I do not think = death in JB’s offense. If Sims is forced to finish his career as an aimless rebounder/finisher, its not the best advertisement.
2a. Will Sims come off the bench all season? Like it or not, I think Sims has proven to be a
guy whose overall game rises and falls relative to his offensive confidence. He needs to be involved and get some shots to play his best. He also should be involved and get some shots because he’s a solid offensive player. Bringing him in off the bench has been a master-stroke by JB IMO. The first team offense is more unfettered without him, and I think it helps establish the offensive rhythm. They haven’t been killed (yet) with Wright at PF. When Sims comes in guys can look for him more comfortably because they’ve already established themselves to some degree, and Sims’ psyche should be uncluttered because he is playing a scoring role off the bench. I love it. But will JB get forced out of it at any point?
3. How are the freshman? To date, Stu and Novak appear to be JB specials. Good outside
shooters with high (esp Stu) ceilings in that dept, but not just pure shooters. Both have shown the ability to handle the ball well and make decisions beyond their years. Facing Duke’s ball pressure as a nice test. To date they aren’t complete liabilities on defense. Jury is out on Cronin due to his hip. I nearly feel out of bed last night when Tim McCormick listed running well amongst his attributes. Are you kidding? He looked like a 7 foot GI Joe figure with invisible hands moving the legs to simulate running.
Is that the hip or something more? On the plus side, he is 7 feet and showed the ability to do some of the things a 7 footer should do, abet while playing against a team that went about 5'9, 5'10, 6'0, 6'3, 6'8. My first though was “my god, they aren’t burning a red shirt year are they?” (IMO, I don’t think they did). But after awhile I changed my mind. Not because of anything in particular that he did, but because I’d trade the option of having Cronin available to steal 8 minutes in a big 10 game where our bigs are in foul trouble, for the opportunity to witness all of the 2012-2013 Ben Cronin experience. If JB can’t reload Ben Cronin by 2012 there are bigger fish to fry.
4. Will teams “figure out” the 1-3-1? Every defense gives up something that they have to
overcome. If you’re in man-to-man you give up match-ups. If you’re in zone there are various weak spots to mine. I would agree that you have a certain advantage over some teams with an exotic zone where they have one practice or less to prepare for it. But I would disagree that through practice and familiarity that the zone can be “figured out.” Dookie V posited that the Blue Devils “figured out” the 1-3-1 with the skip pass. They did? Yes, they did skip it and get some wide open looks, but those looks are only good if you can cash them in. Duke didn’t do much damage there. They did kill M on the offensive glass, and when they skipped it and flashed an active 7-footer or freak athlete into the lane who made the initial catch with C.J. Lee on his back.
Teams will make hay against the zone when they can flash bigs in the post, and those guys catch and finish before the rotation gets there (or can finish over the rotation). If UM remains vigilant in their rotations on the perimeter and down low they will continue to minimize the wide open looks and easy lay-ups. If teams are hitting mostly contested threes and baseline shots out of a double team, and if teams can continually crush M on the offensive glass, bully for them. But its not figuring out the zone.
5. Will Manny earn Big 10 POY? Manny has a shitload of flaws, but he’s a player most
people love (and probably over value slightly) because of the multitude of tools he brings to the table. He’s not a great defender, but he is an very active defender who can make things happen on that end. He’s a superb rebounder for his size. He’s not a great ball handler or assist guy, but he can take the ball end-to-end and finish or make a pass that brings you out of your seat. He’s an overrated finisher in the half court, but great at creating contact in the lane and converting Fts. He turns it over too often still and isn’t a great outside shooter, but good enough that the defender needs to show his J some respect.
I’m not sure where the kid’s ceiling is as a player, but POY is clearly within his range. He’s got the requisite preseason hype which he’s played up to. He’s the face of a team which looks resurgent and has a legit chance to dance for the first time in a decade. Put that next to an 18-7-4 stat line (he’s at 22-7.8-4.4 right now) in the Big 10 where the face of the conference is.....???..... (does Brian Butch still have eligibility?) and you’ve got a POY.
5a. Where does Manny need improvement to be full deserving of that honor? Voters aren’t
that interested in things like turnovers, offensive fouls committed, and 3 pt shooting percentages. From what I have seen so far, Manny has cut down on his out-of-control tos (though much of that is likely due to his move off the ball) but still tries to squeeze in some passes he shouldn’t, and throws away the occasional ball when he over-penetrates. I’m really not concerned with his tos actually. He has also shown flashes of brilliance with his court vision, I’ve been very impressed with most of his passes in traffic. I would like to see him tighten his decision making and passing on the break. For a guy like Manny, the second a doubt creeps in his head over whether to pass or shoot on the break, he should just put his head down and go for the layup and try to draw contact.
Manny’s rebounding is way up, also due to position switch, but wouldn’t be possible if he weren’t an awesome rebounder with an unteachable nose for the ball. His conditioning is superb, and the team responds to him as a leader. He recognizes his limitations as a shooter and balances them against his need to shoot threes in this offense. He makes enough and if he ever shoot 40% on a consistent basis look out.
Here is where I would like to see Manny grow as a player. He has the first step and handle to beat his man off the dribble with regularity. But if he wants to be a great Big 10 player and have a shot to make an NBA rotation, he has to improve what he does once he’s past the first wave. As stated, I see both growth and potential in his passing off the dribble. And when he draws contact, he’s a terrific FT shooter. But too often he is slightly out of control going into the lane. He commits a lot of offensive fouls, and a lot of the calls he does get are borderline. He doesn’t finish often enough when he’s not fouled (though he’ll often tip in his own miss) and when he is fouled. If he could finish at the rim with more consistency, and develop a reliable floater and/or pull up J, he would really be cooking with gas.
I doubt we’ll see those things materialize in-season, but are layers he could add for next year. If there is one.